Friday, April 17, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Ruth's Journey by Donald McCaig

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (October 14, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1451643535


Authorized by the Margaret Mitchell Estate, here is the first-ever prequel to one of the most beloved and bestselling novels of all time, Gone with the Wind. The critically acclaimed author ofRhett Butler’s People magnificently recounts the life of Mammy, one of literature’s greatest supporting characters, from her days as a slave girl to the outbreak of the Civil War.

“Her story began with a miracle.” On the Caribbean island of Saint Domingue, an island consumed by the flames of revolution, a senseless attack leaves only one survivor—an infant girl. She falls into the hands of two French émigrés, Henri and Solange Fournier, who take the beautiful child they call Ruth to the bustling American city of Savannah.

What follows is the sweeping tale of Ruth’s life as shaped by her strong-willed mistress and other larger-than-life personalities she encounters in the South: Jehu Glen, a free black man with whom Ruth falls madly in love; the shabbily genteel family that first hires Ruth as Mammy; Solange’s daughter Ellen and the rough Irishman, Gerald O’Hara, whom Ellen chooses to marry; the Butler family of Charleston and their shocking connection to Mammy Ruth; and finally Scarlett O’Hara—the irrepressible Southern belle Mammy raises from birth. As we witness the difficult coming of age felt by three generations of women, gifted storyteller Donald McCaig reveals a portrait of Mammy that is both nuanced and poignant, at once a proud woman and a captive, and a strict disciplinarian who has never experienced freedom herself. But despite the cruelties of a world that has decreed her a slave, Mammy endures, a rock in the river of time. She loves with a ferocity that would astonish those around her if they knew it. And she holds tight even to those who have been lost in the ravages of her days.

Set against the backdrop of the South from the 1820's until the dawn of the Civil War, here is a remarkable story of fortitude, heartbreak, and indomitable will—and a tale that will forever illuminate your reading of Margaret Mitchell’s unforgettable classic, Gone with the Wind.


I was immediately drawn to the novel Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig, because it is a book that is about Mammy, the slave from the book Gone with the Wind who basically raised Scarlett O’Hara. When I was younger, I watched the movie Scarlett, which is the sequel to Gone with the Wind, and fell completely in love with Scarlett O’Hara, Mammy, Rhett, and the rest of the characters. Shortly after watching that movie, I begged my mom to get the movie Gone with the Wind for me, so she did, and I absolutely loved it, and watched it over and over again.  When I was a little older I decided to read the book, and I fell even more in love with the story, because as with all books vs. movies, the book has so much more detail and there is so much that the movie doesn’t show. Anyways, I was pretty sure that I was going to like this novel right away, and I was not disappointed.

Mammy (Ruth) is brought to Georgia from Santa Domingo after her parents are killed during an uprising by her great-grandmother, Solange, and that is how she becomes a part of the household that will lead to her becoming Scarlett’s Mammy. Ruth’s life spans over 60 years, and during those 60 years she experiences so many different things in life. From heartaches to happiness and everything in between. She raised three generations of Scarlett’s family, and helped to love, protect, and care for her white owners, even though she was just a slave.

The writing style is smooth and descriptive, and you can clearly picture what the author is describing on the pages. I can’t even imagine the amount of research that had to have gone into this novel in order to make sure it was historically accurate, and to make sure that it went along with Margaret Mitchell’s books as well. I can definitely appreciate a great book that obviously took a lot of hard work and research to put together and this one did. The only thing I would say that might have improved it a little, would be if the book had focused a little more on Ruth’s voice. I felt like Ruth was sometimes a passive observer as her life was talked about, rather than an active participant. It would have been nice to get more of a feel of who she was. However, that was just a small thing, and didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the book.
I give this novel a FOUR out of FIVE stars.


“Exquisitely imagined, deeply researched, Donald McCaig's Ruth's Journey brings to the foreground the most enigmatic and fascinating figure in Gone With the Wind. This is a brave work of literary empathy by a writer at the height of his powers, who demonstrates a magisterial understanding of the period, its clashing cultures and its heartbreaking crises.” (Geraldine Brooks, author of March)

“Rich with sympathy and telling prose…McCaig’s prequel proves engaging and satisfying,” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

"A much-needed fleshing out of one of the original book’s three major characters." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


Donald McCaig is the award-winning author of Canaan as well as Jacob’s Ladder, designated “the best Civil War novel ever written” by the Virginia Quarterly. It won the Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the Library of Virginia Award for Fiction. He was chosen by the Margaret Mitchell estate to write Rhett Butler’s People, an authorized sequel to Gone with the Wind. He lives on a sheep farm in the mountains near Williamsville, Virginia, where he writes fiction, essays, and poetry, and trains and trials sheep dogs.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: Helen of Sparta by Amalia Carosella

Please join author Amalia Carosella as she tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for Helen of Sparta, from April 1-22.

02_Helen of Sparta Cover

Publication Date: April 1, 2015
 Lake Union Publishing 
Formats: eBook, Paperback
 ISBN-10: 1477821384
 Genre: Historical Fiction

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Long before she ran away with Paris to Troy, Helen of Sparta was haunted by nightmares of a burning city under siege. These dreams foretold impending war—a war that only Helen has the power to avert. To do so, she must defy her family and betray her betrothed by fleeing the palace in the dead of night. In need of protection, she finds shelter and comfort in the arms of Theseus, son of Poseidon. With Theseus at her side, she believes she can escape her destiny. But at every turn, new dangers—violence, betrayal, extortion, threat of war—thwart Helen’s plans and bar her path. Still, she refuses to bend to the will of the gods. A new take on an ancient myth, Helen of Sparta is the story of one woman determined to decide her own fate.

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About the Author

03_Amalia Carosella AuthorAmalia Carosella graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelors degree in Classical Studies and English. An avid reader and former bookseller, she writes about old heroes and older gods. She lives with her husband in upstate New York and dreams of the day she will own goats (and maybe even a horse, too). For more information, visit her blog at She also writes fantasy and paranormal romance as Amalia Dillin. You can also connect with Amalia on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter here and here.

Helen of Sparta Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, April 1
Review at Unshelfish
Review at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, April 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, April 3
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Saturday, April 4
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective
Monday, April 6
Review at Curling Up By the Fire
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Tuesday, April 7
Spotlight at
Wednesday, April 8
Review at Historical Reads and Views
Thursday, April 9
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book!
Friday, April 10
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, April 13
Interview at Book Babe
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession
Tuesday, April 14
Review at Forever Ashley
Wednesday, April 15
Review at Just One More Chapter
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Thursday, April 16
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Friday, April 17
Review at Impressions in Ink
Saturday, April 18
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Monday, April 20
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Interview at The Maiden's Court
Tuesday, April 21
Review at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, April 22
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy & Becky Hepinstall


A best-selling novelist enlists her own sister to bring us the story of two Southern sisters, disguised as men, who join the Confederate Army—one seeking vengeance on the battlefield, the other finding love.

In a war pitting brother against brother, two sisters choose their own battle.

Joseph and Thomas are fresh recruits for the Confederate Army, daring to join the wild fray that has become the seemingly endless Civil War, sharing everything with their fellow soldiers—except the secret that would mean their undoing: they are sisters.

Before the war, Joseph and Thomas were Josephine and Libby. But that bloodiest battle, Antietam, leaves Libby to find her husband, Arden, dead. She vows vengeance, dons Arden’s clothes, and sneaks off to enlist with the Stonewall Brigade, swearing to kill one Yankee for every year of his too-short life. Desperate to protect her grief-crazed sister, Josephine insists on joining her. Surrounded by flying bullets, deprivation, and illness, the sisters are found by other dangers: Libby is hurtling toward madness, haunted and urged on by her husband’s ghost; Josephine is falling in love with a fellow soldier. She lives in fear both of revealing their disguise and of losing her first love before she can make her heart known to him.

In her trademark “vibrant” (Washington Post Book World) and “luscious” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) prose, Kathy Hepinstall joins with her sister Becky to show us the hopes of love and war, the impossible-to-sever bonds of sisterhood, and how what matters most can both hurt us and heal us.


Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy & Becky Hepinstall is the best book that I have read in a long time. I cannot get over how much I loved it! I would have read it in a day or two if it were possible, but unfortunately I have a million things on my plate right now, so it took me longer than I wanted to be able to finish it. However, every time I had a chance, I would sneak away and read as much as I could. 
The story is heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. Libby is completely lost at her husband Arden’s death during the Civil War, and she makes a promise to avenge him by joining the cause disguised as a young male Confederate Soldier, and killing as many Union soldiers as Arden was years old. Her sister Josephine refused to let her go at it alone, so she joins in on this crazy plan to protect her, and together they become Thomas and Joseph.

Libby (Thomas) was so connected to her dead husband Arden, that it is almost as if they have become one after he has died. She speaks like him, walks like him, is basically becoming him. She dreams about him nightly, and he speaks to her every day. She is slowly losing her mind, and it is as if Arden is taking over her. Josephine (Joseph) is worried about her, but through a new and close friendship with another soldier named Wesley, she learns that she has to start thinking about herself, and that nothing she does is going to help her sister at this point. Josephine has to make some tough decisions at this point, and she is torn between Wesley and her sister.

The writing is excellent in this novel. Everything flows together so nicely, and there is so much attention to detail. The descriptions of the battles put you right there with the sisters and the rest of the soldiers. I love that there was a great amount of historical research that went into this book, yet it was still a creative and interesting story. The characters were all easy to connect with, and you could really feel their pain and their struggles. I loved each and every character in their own way, even Lewis. I felt sadness with the others when their friends died, and I worried for Libby when her mind started to slip. I felt Josephine’s struggle to make the choice between Wesley and her sister. I felt so much throughout this book, and I love books that make me feel. I remember books like Sisters of Shiloh forever, because of how much emotion I felt while I was reading it.

There is absolutely nothing negative to say about this book. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good book to read, whether they are a fan of historical fiction or not. However, if they like historical fiction, then they are probably going to fall in love with this novel just as I did. I wish that I could give it more than FIVE stars, because that is what it deserves.  

This book definitely gets a FIVE out of FIVE stars from me!


"Sisters of Shiloh is an unsparing, bloody, emotional tour-de-force. With Kathy’s experience as a bestselling author and Becky’s history degree, the Hepinstalls are a highly effective writing team. They present lucky readers with a tale of love and hate, vengeance and devotion, and the darkest secrets imaginable. Highly recommended for all." --Historical Novels Review

"The Hepinstall sisters provide a fascinating glimpse into Civil War life from an unconventional perspective." --Kirkus

"The very best historical fiction delivers us into another time and place. In Sisters of Shiloh, Kathy and Becky Hepinstall plunge us so deeply into a complete and vividly rendered world of Civil War battlefields and Confederate campsites, we can smell the gun powder and taste the metallic tinge of fear along with their remarkable heroines." --Janis Cooke Newman, author of Mary


Kathy and Becky Hepinstall grew up outside Houston, Texas. An award-winning creative director, Kathy is also the best-selling author of four previous books. She lives in Carpinteria, California. Becky holds a history degree from the University of Texas at Austin and lives in Virginia with her husband, a Navy pilot, and their four children.

Friday, April 3, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: To Die A Dry Death by Greta van der Rol


Surviving the shipwreck was the easy part 1629. Shipwrecked on an uncharted reef thirty miles off the coast of Australia, two hundred men, women and children scramble ashore on tiny, hostile islands. There is no fresh water and the only food is what they can salvage from the wreck, or harvest from the sea. The ship’s officers set out in an open boat on a two-thousand-mile journey across uncharted ocean to seek help. But there's not enough food and water for everyone on the islands to last until a rescue ship arrives. One man will stop at nothing to ensure that he is among the survivors. But adversity throws up heroes. Soon there's war between two groups, both determined to be there to greet that rescue ship when it arrives. If it arrives. The terrifying true story of the Batavia shipwreck. Contains graphic violence.

My Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is well written and extremely well researched. I couldn’t imagine writing a novel such as this one, because it uses so many different nautical terms as well as incorporates so much history dealing with the shipping trade. Ms. van der Rol also does a great job in examining the “good” and “evil” side of man.

To Die a Dry Death is a true adventure story, full of ups and downs, good and evil, and even a couple of pretty sexy love scenes! It made me draw a few comparisons between this book and Lord of the Flies by William Golding. A group of people are trapped together on an island and forced to find the means to survive, and eventually this brings about man’s innate savage nature. It is especially interesting considering that this story is based on a true events.

Cornelisz, the leader of the people on the island they are stranded on, Batavia’s Graveyard, is an intelligent, sophisticated man. Faced with 140 people on an island without enough water or food, he chooses to forget his civilized roots and decides that survival of the fittest is the right choice for the shipwrecked people. Cornelisz justifies his deeds by saying, “We had not enough supplies for all. Is it best that we all must suffer and die? Should we not try to ensure that some will survive? Those strongest, fittest?” When looking at it that way, you might think he is right, however the way he went about ensuring that the “fittest” would survive was not what a civilized person might consider “right.”

It seems that the men in this novel were much quicker and happier to return to their savage roots than the boys in Lord of the Flies. It took a little while for the boys to reach the point where they could kill without regret, but the men in To Die a Dry Death were soldiers and sailors for the most part, and they had already been exposed to death and savagery during their lifetime. This made it easier for them to kill, plus there was the “mob behavior,” where it is easier for people as a group to kill or destroy, because they become anonymous within a group, and this allows them to disassociate themselves from their behavior. I think this would be a great book for a college class to read and study, and explore its deeper meaning and even do a comparison to Lord of the Flies. I also think it would make for a great movie!

The names were a little hard for me to follow at times, mostly because they are foreign to me. I really liked Captain Adriaen Jacobz at the beginning of the book, and I was a little confused when he was incarcerated, and nothing was said about his situation again until the very end. In reality, it is not known what happened to Captain Jacobz, but the author included a little bit about him in the conclusion of the book in order to add a little hope to his story. Wiebbe Hayes is another character that I really enjoyed in this book. He became one of the characters that seemed to show the "good" side of man.  I think a lot of the characters represented either the good vs. evil aspect of humans.

Another character that would be extremely interesting to dissect is Pelsaert. At times he seems to be the 'good' guy who wants to save the people left on the island, but at other times it’s obvious that all he cares about is saving face in front of the shipping company he works for and finding the treasure and money that were shipwrecked. It’s obvious by the end of the book that he cares only for himself and the merchandise he is trying to recover; when a group of sailors (including Sardam’s Captain) are lost along with the best boat for pulling up the barrels while they are looking for merchandise, Palsaert says, “God grant the boat return soon.” 

I love that the characters are based on people who really had been on this shipwreck. Greta van der Rol did an excellent job of using creative license with the characters to really bring them alive for the reader.

I learned so much, and had a hard time putting the book down at times. The names confused me a little bit, and having a Captain Jacobsz and a Captain Jacopsz REALLY confused me, but once I had a handle on the names I was good and reading was smooth. I would 100% recommend this novel to any of my readers. I am impressed with everything about this book, and the fact that it is Historical Fiction makes is pretty much near perfect for me!

This novel definitely deserves 5 out of 5 Stars!


"The most intriguing aspect of this story is how the author skillfully unravels one man's motives for gaining power through use of fear and examines to what lengths a person will go to preserve his own life. With such complex and deeply motivated characters, conflict abounds, creating a fast-paced and thrilling read ... Peppered throughout are exquisite details: of vivid seascapes, clothing, work implements, and nautical terminology. Readers who love to be immersed in a historical period will appreciate the precise research that has gone into this work; while those who enjoy an action-oriented and plot-driven story will be riveted." - Historical Novel Review

"Greta's imaginative portrayal of Cornelisz is brilliant. She shows how the desire to survive turns him into a monster and yet allows him moments of strange tenderness when in love ... this is indeed a compelling tale and Greta has been fascinated by the story for twenty five years. Her writing skills are impeccable. One is drawn immediately into the scenario and carried on by the sheer power of her depiction, the characters she builds and the settings she creates. But it is an unrelentingly dark tale, so be warned." - Loretta Proctor, Books and Other Thing

"I planned to read this novel over the course of a week. Instead, I found myself staying up (far too) late and finished it in two nights. I found it nearly impossible to put down ... I definitely enjoyed this novel more than most. The pacing is fast, the characters believable, and I would almost certainly read it again. Highly recommended." - Spann of Time

About the Author:

Greta van der Rol loves writing action-packed adventures with a side salad of romance. Most of her work is space opera, but she has written paranormal and historical fiction.

She lives not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoys photography and cooking when she isn't bent over the computer. She has a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping her in her writing endeavours.

Greta's brand new book, "Crisis at Validor", is available now. It's number four in the Ptorix Empire series.

Greta van der Rol explains 17th Century name difficulties HERE!